Over time and with the progression of laws people have gained more access to the courts and protection under the law. With more laws comes more misunderstanding of the law and the protections it offers. Orders of Protections (OPs) are one of those areas that are frequently confusing and misunderstood. Sometimes people believe OPs are restraining orders or that anyone can take one out against anyone.
What is an Order of Protection? An order of protection is a civil—not criminal—order that prohibits the respondent (the person the order is taken out against) from either communicating with the petitioner, being around the petitioner, or both. No criminal charges have to be brought to petition for an Order of Protection. Now that being said, an Order of Protection is applicable between spouses, partners, family members, roommates, and close relations. You can’t get an order of protection against your neighbor or Joe Shmoe walking down the street.
Are there different types of Orders of Protection? There are two predominate types: The first is no contact, no communication and the second is social contact with numerous variations branching off from there. No contact, no communication means exactly like what it sounds, the respondent can have no contact or communication with the petitioner. Social contact means the respondent can be around and communicate with the petitioner, but is prohibited from threatening or intimidating the petitioner. A violation of either type can result in ten (10) days in jail.
An Order of Protection can also temporarily establish custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. Additionally, an Order can prohibit you from possessing firearms and even require you move out of your home.
When you are initially served with an Order of Protection, the judge has only heard one side of the story. The respondent is entitled to be heard in court about why the allegations are false and why the order should not be entered. It is very important that the Respondent go to court on the court date; otherwise, the judge will enter the requested order for one year.
An Order of Protection is generally enforceable for one (1) year, although after a year the petitioner for good cause can ask to have it extended.
A common misconception is that an Order of Protection is a Restraining Order. Both serve very similar purposes, but are achieved through different processes and have differing effects. A Restraining Order is most commonly the result of a bond condition imposed in a pending criminal case or criminal judgment.
If you are served with an Order of Protection or have any questions about Orders of Protection, you should contact your local attorney immediately. Potential enforcement or a violation of an Order could have dire consequences.
Marcos Garza is the owner of Garza Law Firm, PLLC, a Tennessee Law Firm dedicated to the full service of motorcyclists, bikers, cruiser and crotch rocket riders across the state. Please direct all comments and follow up questions to him at (865) 540-8300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.